Chelsea smashed Leicester 0-3 at the King Power Stadium to go top of the Premier League, with one defender shining.
Antonio Rudiger was regal at the King Power, strutting his stuff in defence as Chelsea handily suppressed whatever firepower Leicester could serve up. Whether it was Jamie Vardy, Ademola Lookman, James Maddison or Kelechi Iheanacho, no one got close.
The athletic dominance Rudiger can exert over most any opponent gives him an edge because even if he gets caught out in a poor position, he can recover physically in any duel or 50/50.
Premier League goals scored by defenders so far this season:
◉ Chelsea = 13
◎ Every other Premier League team combined = 12
Absolutely bonkers. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/dczcfx2DTm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 20, 2021
But the simple fact is Rudiger isn’t really caught out that much. His positioning and reading of the game is so high level that opponents really struggle to get beyond him. He had a joint game-high 3 clearances today, won 3/4 aerial duels and, y’know, scoring the opening goal.
It was just 14 minutes into the game when Rudiger peeled off the goal-line, running away but still managing to arc his neck around to guide Ben Chilwell’s corner into the back of the net with authority. A simple yet stunning header, his ninth goal for Chelsea (four of which have been against Leicester!) and the strike that set the tone for a dominant afternoon.
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Rudiger even showed a rare bit of creative play in the last 10 minutes of the game, driving forward and flipping a lovely scoop ball over the defence for an onrushing Ben Chilwell who set up Christian Pulisic to score. He also launched a stunning 40 yard pass over he defence for Chilwell who laid it back and a few passes later Reece James had scored.
Both goals were ruled out as Chilwell ran too soon and was offside both times, but that Rudiger had the confidence to stride to 10 yards outside the Leicester box and flip a pass like he were Jorginho, or that he had the ability to rake a 40 yard pass like Prime John Terry, speaks volumes as to the level he’s operating on right now.
Back in September, Rio Ferdinand named Rudiger as the best defender in the league. “Since Tuchel has come I think he’s arguably been the best centre-back,” said the Man Utd man. “I think him and [Ruben] Dias would have been close but the effect he has had on his team has been immense.”
Speaking again post-match, Ferdinand said; “he sets the tone,” adding “when they need to shut the door at the back, he’s the one who puts his foot in when it hurts.”
And you can’t argue with that. Not when you look at how relentlessly solid in defence the Blues have been this season, keeping four straight clean sheets away from home for the first time in over a decade. And that formidable defence has the tone set for them by Antonio Rudiger. The regal German who romped all over the King Power pitch to take Chelsea top.